Retiring principal recalls life-changing decision to seek teaching credential

Whenever Skip Kniesche ’91 receives an application and resume from a Dominican student, he automatically places it on the top of a stack of teaching candidates on his desk at A.E. Kent Middle School.

“That’s an absolute. It has to do with their training. Dominican students for the most part are just amazing,” says Skip, who has been the principal at the Kentfield middle school for 13 years. “It’s almost like the University has already done the screening for you. I think the faculty is incredible and the support system is outstanding.”

Skip speaks from personal experience. Dominican’s Department of Education provided him with a life-changing education 27 years ago when he decided to sell his family’s restaurant business in San Francisco to pursue a teaching credential. His short time at Dominican was so impactful that he helped persuade his daughter-in-law, Kelsey Kniesche, to seek her teaching credential. She will graduate from Dominican in May.

Skip’s family owned Schroeder’s on Front Street in the Financial District for almost 70 years.  It is the West Coast’s oldest German restaurant, but Skip was ready to sell it after his grandfather and sister died and his father was ready to retire. The Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 provided the final push to try something else.

Skip earned his real estate license, yet one night at a family birthday party after an inspiring hour-long conversation with a friend, he was led in another direction. The friend urged Skip to become a teacher and encouraged him to get his teaching credential at Dominican.

Skip had been a Ross school board member and was comfortable with kids as a Little League baseball coach and Boy Scout leader for ten years. Dominican provided the support that Skip, then 38 years old, needed to make the transition to a new career.

“It was hard to get my mind around researching and studying and writing papers, but the teachers were helpful in terms of how I was able to get through,” Skip recalls. “It seemed like the right thing to do. Dominican was awesome. One of the reasons I liked Dominican was that I heard that students who came out of the Education department always got jobs.”

•    Request information about Dominican’s graduate programs.

With his multiple subject credential, Skip started teaching in sixth grade at Brookside Elementary School in San Anselmo. The next year, Bob Caine, former superintendent of Kentfield School District, suggested Skip apply for a fifth grade position at Kent School in 1992. Both he and his wife, Nancy, joined the Kentfield School District the same year.  While Nancy retired two years ago, he has been there ever since.

“Dominican helped me learn how to handle myself in the classroom.  That’s an important piece. That experience to go and teach in a school before graduating was completely foreign to me. Once you’re in a class room it’s your own style,” The lesson planning he learned at Dominican prepared him well, as did his student teaching experience.  Skip says. “Dominican also gave me the resources and allowed me to come back and ask for help. They were there for that. It was a complete change to go from the business world to the education world.”

In 2005, Skip became principal at Kent School. In 2012-13, Kent received the designation of California Distinguished School and in 2015-16 Kent received the Gold Ribbon award from the state of California.  This June, Skip will retire as its principal roughly 27 years after taking a leap of faith into Dominican. He will join his wife in traveling and enjoying their seven grandchildren.

That faith is validated by the number of applications from Dominican over the years that have crossed his desk.

“We have gotten a large group of teachers from Dominican,” Skip says. “There is something about the preparation that they do that is unlike anything we see in any other school that we hire from and that’s the absolute truth.”


April 30, 2018